– Layla Bozich, staff
A new location and a grand makeover are currently in the works for the Brantford Arts Block. The Arts Block is being moved from its previous location, a small space located on Dalhousie St., to a 20,000 square foot building located on Colborne St. The brand new Arts Block will include a 150-seat black box theatre, gift shop, licensed cafe, gallery, classrooms, photography and recording studios, and more.
“This building is going to transform an entire generation of people,” says Josh Bean, Executive Director of the Arts Block. “It’s going to have a huge impact on Brantford as a whole.”
Substantial involvement from Mohawk College is helping make the construction of the new Arts Block quicker and more effective. As a partner of the Arts Block, Mohawk is helping by contributing to the rent and the construction of the building. As well, they are donating a stage and incorporating their own ideas, such as a classroom designed to teach students graphic programs from Mac computers.
“The more people that you have in one space creating art together, the more interesting partnerships start to happen,” Bean says. “People that you wouldn’t expect to connect suddenly start connecting and collaborating, and I think that’s what’s really exciting about the art world right now – collaboration.”
Jo-Ann Procter, Associate Dean of Mohawk’s Brantford campus, believes that the Arts Block will be able to broaden the opportunity of experiencing the arts through workshops and studio space.
Mohawk plans to move their School Within a College program to the new Arts Block location, instructing students in courses such as an introduction to trades and technologies. The School Within a College program allows students to complete their high school credits and access further post-secondary schooling.
“It really does excite me to have that many artists and that many avenues to promote the arts and cultivate the arts in one building,” says Procter. “I think the sky’s the limit.”
Aliki Mikulich, Program Manager at the Arts Block, refers to the new location as a “hub of the arts.”
While writing policies for the new building is too administrative for her liking as an artist, she hopes to see programming in the theatre around the clock in order to make the building a more lively and accessible space.
“We’re hoping that it will be a go-to place not just for Laurier, but for all of Brantford, where you say ‘What’s there to do tonight? Well, let’s go check out what’s going on at the Arts Block,’” Mikulich says.
However, as the new location has not yet opened, the amount of Laurier Brantford traffic that the Arts Block will see is still questionable.
“For us, we’re so used to being within 30 seconds of any building we need to go to, so by comparison, it’s a long walk,” says Laurier Brantford student Chris Tanaka-Mann, member of the local band “Safe, Then Sorry”.
“It might just be we’ll have fewer students going to Arts Block events,” he says. “On the other hand, it might make that stretch of road more attractive to students.”
The Arts Block is looking to have a soft opening in September with some programming available, and then having its grand opening in January, when the space will be fully operational.
“[It is] one other thing for Laurier students to do,” says Bean. “It is a great opportunity for them to go out and be creative, to connect with each other and the community, and to have some fun.”
Students with an interest in volunteering with the Brantford Arts Block in a variety of different aspects are asked to contact Josh Bean.